January 25, 2005


The Kingmakers: Turnout, cohesiveness may give ethnic group extraordinary leverage (Edmund Sanders, January 23, 2005, LA Times)

In this Kurdish mountain capital, pictures of candidates appear in newspapers. Election day celebrations are being planned. The biggest worry is whether bad weather on Jan. 30 might clog the roads. (A fleet of snow-blowers has been readied just in case.)

It's all in stark contrast to the rest of the country, where the political hopefuls are afraid to be identified, campaigning is underground and millions of voters are expected to steer clear of the polls in protest or in fear.

"There's a sense of gathering excitement among the Kurds over elections," said Barham Salih, Iraq's deputy prime minister for national security and one of the highest-ranking Kurds in the current government. "Our aspirations are very high. It's an exciting moment in our history. This is the first time we Kurds have been allowed to take part in deciding the future of Iraq."

Political experts predict that Kurds will emerge as major winners on election day thanks to a combination of factors working in their favor, including strong voter turnout because of better security in their region and a unified candidate slate that removed any threat of a split vote. Kurds may not get the most votes, but they are likely to win a sizable bloc that should give them a key role in selecting the new government.

"The Kurds are really the ones who could come out on top," said Hassan Bazaz, a political analyst at Baghdad University.

They should have been recognized as a state and had their own elections in '91, but better late then never.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 25, 2005 11:24 PM
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